This week could go either way depending on how I say this, so I’m going to break up my two thoughts so that they are not combined. Thought #1 – we all make mistakes and Thought #2 – I just celebrated my 28th Wedding anniversary. DO NOT combine those thoughts. Twenty-eight years is a long time to be married these days; Lisa and I are very proud of it. People always marvel at making it to the 25-year mark but we are still going strong. The first thing younger couples ask or those who never made it this far is: What’s the secret? This is where the mistakes part comes in, we all make them but it’s how we deal with them that makes the difference. We’ve made mistakes along the way but we learned from them and we moved on. We don’t keep bringing them up over and over. Marriage is hard and it isn’t perfect, that’s why learning to deal with mistakes is important. One key to “dealing” with a mistake is to acknowledge it – “yeah, I really screwed that up”. Once you accept that you actually made the mistake, the rest is easy. I’ve been promising people that I work with two things – I will make mistakes and I will NOT repeat them. The not repeating part, that’s the learning. We all need to stop and look at our mistakes, figure out why it happened, what can be done to prevent it and get over it through an apology. People are generally caring and will understand the majority of mistakes if you accept your responsibility in it, apologize and explain your plan to move on so you don’t repeat it. How do you keep a marriage together for 28 years? The answer is simple: Love, faith, understanding, respect, a lot of mistakes and wife who will forgive them.
“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm: though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
The old question, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” seems appropriate here. If you would never fail, is there anything that you wouldn’t try? A post on mistakes can be filled with stories about people and their huge mistakes. Here are a few famous “mistakes”: post-it notes, Velcro, microwave ovens, potato chips, x-rays, penicillin, silly putty and the slinky. These all were the result of someone making a mistake. God has taught us to be truthful and repentant – admit the mistake and don’t repeat it. God knows what is in our hearts and He will not let us fall. The Psalm tells us that even though we may stumble, God will be by our side and not let us fall. Stumbling can surely be embarrassing but it doesn’t hurt like falling does. God is with us all day, every day holding out His hand to keep us from falling. God’s plan is revealed very slowly to us but we can be assured that He is with us. Our job is to be with Him. Daily devotion, prayer and thanksgiving keeps God close. As they say, “With God, anything is possible”.
There’s an old saying that warns all of us about the company that we keep. We see the impact that people have on each other a lot in the fire service with fire crews. Each crew is usually made up of a leader, a driver and two firefighters. You can take four separate people, put them together and they will eventually become one central personality. The hope of every fire chief is that they will become a personality that is closer to the leader’s than anyone else’s. This same concept is what creates cliques and coffee clutches, as we get older. It seems that every social group develops its own personality that draws people toward it or pushes them away. How is the company that you keep? “When he gets around his college buddies, my husband turns into a different person”. “My wife has such a positive attitude after she hangs out with the ladies group”. What do you adapt to when you hang around with the various groups of people in your life. Many of us were told when we were kids that “so and so was a bad influence”; our parents were probably right. Give a thought to the movies you watch, the songs you listen to, the things your read and, the company you keep. These things all influence how you act, what you say and what you believe. One of the main principles in Change Management is providing a vision for the workforce. The concept of vision is in part, influencing thought and beliefs by keeping the distractions down and focusing on the positives. Stay focused on the good things in your life and the people who make them that way. By avoiding the negative thoughts and people, you will become the central personality for others. We need more positive influences in our lives!
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8
Just as we influence others by how we act, we are are influenced in what we believe by the company we keep. Recent studies show that college students fall away from their religious beliefs in large numbers. Many experience the freedoms of college and choose to explore while others are simply influenced to go in a “different direction”. We have to be on guard to make sure the same doesn’t happen to us as adults. Too many people believe the lie that they are in control and that a higher power may exist but won’t acknowledge that it is God. Humans are unable to comprehend the power of God and won’t submit to the idea that they are not controlling everything in their lives. “I don’t need God to do_____” or “The myth of God is just a crutch for the weak minded” are phrases that these people use. Hearing this over and over can start to influence even the strong willed. St. Paul warns us to “see to it that no one takes us captive”. This life is short when you compare it to eternal life. The feeling of belonging or the friends that influence you are not worth it if it means losing your focus on Christ. Stay Strong!
Constructive criticism. Just the name makes me think “what an oxy moron”; what can be constructive about criticism? Having given out my fair share of it, I’m sure that it was an oxy moron to the person receiving it too. I had always believed that it should be given as gift and received as one too. It takes courage to tell someone how they might improve or try something differently. It was when I started studying the concept of employee coaching that it really made sense. In coaching, the supervisor is not criticizing the employee but they are offering constructive observations about behaviors, seeking to understand the goals of the employee and attempting to align those goals with those of the organization. Effective employee coaching can go a long way toward building up an employee, not criticizing them. What does the word “praise” mean to you when you hear it? For many, it’s only something you do at church. Our society has become so negative that all we seem to hear are criticisms. We should be throwing around a little more praise for people and the things they do. Think about the last time you told a server at a restaurant that they did a good job. You may have tipped well, but saying something will make it mean much more. I’m not suggesting that you walk around all day telling everyone “good job” but more often than not, they never really know if they doing a good job. The next time that the chance presents itself; tell someone how much you appreciated their work or advice. Not only will you make someone’s day but you’ll also be surprised how good you will feel about yourself.
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8
During the sermon in church today, we heard a verse from St. Paul in one of his letters to the Corinthians that essentially says – we cannot understand the wisdom or the timelines of God. We don’t understand why things happen and we become frustrated when our prayers are not answered right a way. Last week I wrote about bad things happening to good people. We cannot understand His ways. I also suggested that we seek to understand why these things happen. We should not criticize what is happening but give praise and thanks for all that He has done. The person who is sick has been given another day to experience; the person who is financially struggling is being prepared for something greater or perhaps being drawn to God. We need to give more thanks and praise. In prayer, God can handle our requests and our questioning His wisdom but He can also handle our moments of praise and thanksgiving. Our praise should not remain silent in prayers but they should be shared with the “nations”. Spread the good news about what God has done, He deserves it.
Someone my wife knows someone who posted on Facebook “why do good people get sick and the rotten people of the world don’t?” It’s a frustrating question because it might actually appear that way. We never hear about “that guy” getting cancer or the evil person at work being involved in a horrible accident. It’s always good people. We aren’t asking for it to happen to bad people but we notice that they seem to never have these problems. In response to this question, I had two immediate thoughts: God needs good people to spread His word through their actions and trials and I don’t know any rotten people well enough to know if they are sick. After that, I started to dwell on my first thought. Good people who get sick always become a source of inspiration for others in some way. Fellow blogger (he’s a real writer) Michael Bradley (mbtimetraveler.com) posted this weekend about a couple he knows that both have cancer; he was inspired. This couple has a friend who started a “gofundme.com” account to help them pay for the medical bills; he was inspired. I’ve known several people who have had serious illnesses and they were inspiring to me as they fought through the challenges; they did the inspiring. So the answer to the question is not why but what are we to learn from this? Are you supposed to be a stronger supporter? Are you supposed to learn about the strength of prayer or how to trust in God? We are all God’s children and He gives us only what we can handle, so what are we going to do with the opportunity that God has presented? Rotten people might not seem to have these problems but if they are truly rotten to the core, then they have eternal problems to deal with.
“All whom the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.” John 6:37
God sent us all to Jesus – period. If Jesus won’t drive us way, what does? Many will answer that it’s sin but God took care of that on the cross at Calvary. Sin will not separate us from God’s love. I’ll suggest that the devil is the one who drives us away from our Savior Jesus Christ. He tempts us all of the time and disease is just one of his tools to turn us away from God. Many times people ask “why did God do this to her?” “Why does God let this happen?” It isn’t God. It’s the devil’s powerful way to make us doubt God’s love in our lives. The devil wants us to turn away from God and will stop at nothing to do it. Jesus will NOT drive us away! God can use the pain of disease or injury to show us His love, strength and compassion. God inspires good people to do great things as a result of these bad events. This week is the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Where was God that day? He was saving thousands of people to do great things and he was inspiring others to be strong in the face of tragedy. Have you ever spoken to someone who was there that day? They tell great stories about the people they lost or they tell of how they found strength in the following years to carry on. They became the inspiration for someone else. This week, make a conscious effort to be inspired by someone or to inspire someone; show the devil your love for God and that you belong to Him.
Happy Labor Day! This is the day that usually marks the end of summer for most of the United States, except in Arizona. We will continue to have summer weather for at least the next 45 days. The forecasted high for today is 107 but dropping to 104 by Friday. We are celebrating the holiday weekend, never the less, with a traditional barbeque and an extra day to just hang out. For us, that usually means more homework or getting to the things that we didn’t do all weekend – they don’t call it Labor Day for nothing! While it’s easy to complain about the extra work around the house, this holiday does represent a celebration of us, the workers of the world. We are given the opportunity to use our talents, skills and abilities to make a difference for someone. In exchange, we are paid for our work. Granted, some are paid more than others but we are able to provide for ourselves. Each of us has special talents that we can use to make a difference for someone. Restaurant staffs make a difference for their customers, accountants provide a service and peace of mind to their clients, the grocery clerk who bags our purchase and so on; everyone makes a difference. If you think your labor is a waste, stop and consider whom you make a difference for. We all have our specific jobs, at this specific time and for a specific reason that we simply don’t understand. So what should we do? I’d suggest that you enjoy your time and learn how you make a difference in everything you do. The word LABOR means that it is supposed to be hard but it doesn’t mean that it is without purpose. Enjoy the holiday and look forward to the changing seasons that are coming – even to us in Arizona.
“Moreover, when God gives a man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work- this is a gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
I’m reminded of the old expression “a gift from God” with this verse. Our human nature is to think that we’re responsible for all the things that we’ve done. “It was me who…” is how we start our sentences when describing an accomplishment. We often think of ourselves when it’s something great but we blame God when its something less desirable. Why did God give me this disease? Why did God let me get fired from my job? We forget that God gives us ALL things; the good and the bad. He put the right people in our lives so that we met the manager who was looking for a new employee and we landed that awesome new job. God gives us what we can handle – not too little and not too much. God also wants us to be happy with what He has given us. He doesn’t want us being envious of the new car that our neighbor just got. He doesn’t want us to be angry when we are passed over for promotion. He wants us to accept what we have (be content) and be happy. It is ALL a gift from God and that is something to be thankful for. Everything, good and bad, is a gift from God. We are supposed to learn from the bad and model God’s grace for others. We are supposed to share the good with others too. God loves a cheerful giver but it’s not always money we need to give. God has blessed each of with talents and those should be shared too. Work should be less about labor and more about celebrating the gift of opportunity from God. Go out and continue to make a difference.